Tuesday, October 23, 2007

While Greasy Lymphopo Doth Keel the Pot

Gumbo weather has finally arrived in south Louisiana! This means the night temperatures are starting to drop below 50 degrees, and daytime highs are not going much above 70, for a few days this week anyway, and genuine winter is not far behind. It also means means you can't get within a hundred feet of a damn grocery store around here because tout le monde is out jamming the aisles, stocking up on gumbo essentials like andouille, okra, and roux. I, of course, am NOT making a gumbo because as you'll recall one of the dubious perks of my charming little shack is that it has no stove. And what the hell kind of a gumbo could you make in a microwave?

Anyway, while you're pondering my shocking deprivation of modern appliances, you may also recall that there is no heat here at Chez Le Chaque. No wall furnace, no floor furnace, no radiant heat, no oven, no fireplace, nada. No heat. And yea verily, winter is nigh upon us, so me I am getting my glacier-white ass ready for the inevitable doom. Just as I've managed to beat the odds and survive lo these many moons without a stove or laundry facilities, I'm also determined to survive this long frigid winter without a furnace. Just watch me.

In fact, the whole hideous challenge has become something of a fascinating new hobby for me. For one thing, I have developed a consuming obsession with snow camping. I spend my free hours perusing web sites and blogs about arctic expeditions. I am particularly intrigued by the haute couture of the subzero outdoor set, at least those idiots who survived their elective polar ordeals.


Polar bear with bad aim girds his loins for winter.

The number one secret to comfortable survival, I have learned, is the high-tech super-light insulating base layer. So I have suddenly become the world's leading expert on such miracle textiles as ThermaSilk, Arctex, SmartWool, LIFA, Capilene, ChillTech, Synchilla, and Polar-Therm. I know all about interlocking polypropylenes, moisture-wicking fabrics, compressibility, high-pile insulation, and welded-seam technology. I am learning how to stay warm without looking like the Michelin Man.


Slender model basks in the warmth of a flattering orange base layer.

Now my next project, when I come home from Mexico, will be weather-stripping, caulking, and patching the all the charming rustic cracks in the shack, in an effort to keep the cold air outside where it belongs. I've already devised a nifty, cheap method of insulating the small kitchen windows with bubble wrap. But this will make the tiny rooms darker than they already are, so I'll be looking into light boxes and dawn simulators. I'll also be researching the most efficient and safe brands of electric space heaters.


This super-efficient little Vornado space heater turns one tiny corner of Le Chaque Miniscule into a tropical cabana.

Wish us luck! And if you yourself have ever survived a cold dark damp glacial winter in a shack without heat, I'd appreciate any survival advice you'd like to pass on.



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36 Comments:

Blogger Jessie said...

Maybe you and the pooches could just hibernate through the winter?

8:47 PM  
Blogger Elfling said...

Hey Leda! I did go through a few winters without heat growing up. We were in a big farmhouse, so Mom hung blankets between doorways to insulate rooms. We pretty much lived in the central rooms, using a kerosene heater. Trouble with that of course is filling it is messy, and it does leave soot around. However, the general idea might pan out for you.

Also, lots of hot tea. <3 And if you want to come visit Tampa, let me know, mmkay? We haven't a large apartment but you are more than welcome.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Marn said...

I live in the mountains of the Eastern Townships of Quebec where it can get to -40. Yes, you read that right. Your eyelashes frost up when you go outside in that.

Liz, a hat is very important. You lose a great deal of heat through your head. (That's why our Victorian ancestors wore night caps to bed. It wasn't a fashion statement. Do the same)

If you have anything approaching an attic or attic crawl space above your ceiling in your home, insulate it. Fiberglass batts are very cheap and the ceiling will be a major heat leak for you. Very cost efficient way to go.

You can get peel off caulk (it's important to get the peel off stuff, NOT the permanent stuff) to seal leaky windows. My daughter used to do that around a drafty door to the balcony she didn't use in the winter.

You can also buy plastic window kits that do what your bubble wrap does, but they are more transparent and let you see out your window. Not too expensive, either.

Clothing layers are important. The stuff closest to your body needs to wick moisture, so that's why you go for the miracle fabrics. Long underwear under pants can really make a difference for coziness.

Fingers crossed it's a mild winter for you.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

Hehe...the other two are much more helpful than me. Ahem.

I did think of something though! You need a good pair of fingerless gloves. Then you can do normal life things (like blog!) without freezing your fingers off.

The hat tip was very good. Elfing and Marn know their stuff. ;)

I have used those window kits (once), and the double sided tape that they included peeled right off. Maybe I just got a bum batch...but anyway, don't forget that there are plenty of industrial strength tapes out there.

I bet it will be helpful to have a general rule against getting cold. That sounds weird...but what I mean is, try to stay warm all the time, because it is easier to stay warm than to GET warm if you are cold. So bring your clothes into bed with you the night before, and dress under the covers. That way you don't have to venture out into the cold in your nightclothes. A similar concept would apply for showering I imagine.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

A similar concept would apply for showering I imagine.

Yeah, I've actually put a lot of thought into devising a way to shower without ever getting out of my nice warm bed. If only I can just figure it out and patent it, then woooweee baby, I'm on my way straight to billionairedom.

10:48 PM  
Blogger schatze said...

For a heater I can give a recomendation on a sealed oil system. The oil heats up, circulates and radiates the heat. Animals and people are safer from burns. They can be rolled from place to place, are not expensive are quiet and one at the foot of your bed will keep your feet toasty. They make them with an accordian shape for more surface area but mine is a while plate that I used to heat a cold bathroom. I put it in a timer and left a towel on it so it automatically warmed up around the time I took a bath, heated my towel and shut off,drying said towel. Dimplex made mine but there are other brands. I think I saw one by Honeywell recently.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

I shall try again - I am an idiot when I try to comment and it requires my brain to engage...my original attempt at commenting was long -this shall be shorter:

Wool socks/wool shawl/wool shirts/dressing in layers/flannel sheets all help survival on the Tundra of far northern Minnesota where the temp can drop to -65 degrees...perhaps they would help keep you warm as well...

you already have the three dogs...therefore are ready for that inevitable Three Dog Night!

Best wishes in that quest for warmth!

12:21 AM  
Blogger Cassie said...

Your head and neck, hands, and feet radiate heat a lot-- that's why taking off socks makes you a lot cooler.
My winter plans include taping vinyl over the windows-- I get a roll from the hardware store, just clear and static-clingy, and use blue painter's tape around the frame. Almost all my windows get that. I also buy two-yard lengths of fleece whenever they're on sale, in all sorts of bright colors, and pile them on the bed. One travels around the house with me. I wear socks to bed, so my feet are only bare when they're wet, and have flannel sheets.
Try to heat as small a volume as possible-- I have a ceramic space heater which sucks down electricity, but I figure it's better to use it to blow directly on me until I'm warm after work than to heat the entire apartment to 'tolerable'.
Eat foods that warm you up. This seems like a no-brainer, but I keep forgetting and shivering after ice cream. I do not always think before I eat.
Train one or more dogs to sleep on your legs at night. If your bed gets really cold, you can rig curtains or something-- I'm thinking one of those weird mosquito-net things meant to make the bed look like a princess' bower twenty mattresses high, but with fleece or something.
Open windows when it's warm during the day. Close them at night. Obviously, this assumes the windows remain openable.
Let sun in whenever possible, then barricade the night out with curtains or something. Even that little layer of air helps.

Of course, I'm rattling all this off, I don't do half of it, and the weather you describe is wonderful-- warm enough that I can have my windows open pretty much all the time, and cold enough that I feel very snuggly under my four/six blankets.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Brainiac9 said...

I was without heat for a few days in my new house up here in Canuckistan, and four things helped me make it through alive.

#1 is hot tea. You cannot go wrong with hot tea.

#2 is my hot pink micro-fibre blanket. Those things are WARM, but also fold up pretty small, so they're easy to store during the summer.

#3 was a microwavable hot pack thing. It's like a little pillow filled with grain or another type of fill that stores heat really nicely. They're awesome.

#4, believe it or not, was my blow dryer. I used it to heat up my bed before I got in, since as someone mentioned above it's easier to start warm than to try to get there. I also did it with my clothes in the morning, so I got the awesome warm just-out-of-the-dryer feel.

Hopefully that helps!

10:57 AM  
Blogger A.M.S. said...

I second the sealed oil heaters. I had one for years when I lived in the mountains and loved it. I'd roll it into the bedroom and shut the door so the animals and I would be comfortably warm. There were even some mornings when I rolled it into the bathroom so I didn't have to step out of warm, steamy heat into frigid air.

My mother also used the trick of sealing off rooms that didn't have doors with blankets.

Um...old fashioned hot water bottles?

11:29 AM  
Blogger Tracye said...

I found a website while looking for dog bed warmers that actually has ALOT of other warming ideas. I have the dog bed warmer (for my min pin when she is by my desk-she sleeps with me)and the electric foot of the bed warmer-I like to use my great grandmas quilts to cover with). I plan on getting a heated mat for my feet while I sit at my desk. The website is http://cozywinter.com/shop/kh-002-004.html That is the page with the dog bed warmers. I also have microwavable house shoe inserts that I got somewhere else. Hope these ideas help!

11:44 AM  
Blogger Tarr said...

1. Hot soaking baths that warm your core. Forget about showers till spring.

2. A Wal-Mart electric blanket.

11:53 AM  
Blogger alphabitch said...

Another [ex-]Minnesotan here. The window plastic makes a big difference, also try hanging quilts or heavy fabric on walls that are particularly cold. The sealed-oil radiator type heaters are quite nice to sit next to (and continue to give off heat for an hour or so after you turn them off).

Can you plug in a crock pot/slow cooker type thing in the kitchen? Not only can you make nice warm stews and soup, it also heats up the room a bit.

I can't recall whether you have a bathtub or just a shower, but my dad always made us leave the bathwater in the tub until it was cold -- no sense letting all that heat go down the drain (I still do this, and people think I'm nuts -- I also use the bathwater to flush the toilet, which people don't think is nearly so crazy now that we have water restrictions).

Wintersilks and Barely There make great, thin underlayers that can be purchased at outlets, etc., but generally, several thin layers are warmer than one or two bulkier layers.

And yes, wear a hat inside.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I don't know if the budget is there for this, but fabric stores sell that fabric that is quilted or insulated and specifically intended for keeping heat from escaping through your windows. We have a little leaflet called "Warm Windows" with some patterns in it for blinds and curtains made with these fabrics. And I'm sure there are other insulated fabrics out there that could be used for this purpose, but may be cheaper since they aren't marketed for it. Maybe you could make a few new window treatments... change things up a little and make the windows more energy-efficient at the same time?

I assume the showering tip had more to do with drying off/putting on robe or clothes while still in the shower stall (vs. stepping into the freezing air to do it) than with showering while still in bed, right? :) Though you should definitely work the showering-in-bed process out too so I can use it. I love the fall and winter (although I suppose I have the luxury of loving it since I have central heat that keeps me from freezing) but it's getting to the time of year where leaving the warm covers and venturing out into the cold Michigan air is starting to seem daunting.

12:34 PM  
Blogger tiffany said...

may I mail you an electric heater?
Please?

2:16 PM  
Blogger tiffany said...

Also, filling a bathtub with hot water will raise the temp up to 5 degrees for several hours (I use this so i can eat /and/ not freeze! :)

2:19 PM  
Blogger gennimcmahon said...

Okay, well, here's somethin'. We live in Southern New Mexico. It's pretty warm here. We live in a big house with another, small, house-like structure out back. Said structure is referred to as the "casita" but it's not a true casita, as it lacks plumbing. It's called by one member of our family the "quardito (sp?)" but she does that to needle us (it's not a CASITA, geez, Mom).

HOWEVER, the little house has a furnace. The big house, steps away, has two potties, a small kitchen (one must sing out, operatically, "SMALL KITCHENNNNNN" at least once while using it) and some space.

Say the word, I clean up the casita, you bring forth dogs and Frida accessories and camp in the furnace driven heat. Vacation, even. You could be all Victorian and "winter" here.

It is no great shakes, but it is heated. And we will not attempt to eat you or your doglings. Promise. the downside being we're here and you're there, and we don't know what is this Zydeco thing, you will worry that I am not serious (oh, but I am), etc. But it's 45 miles from Mexico, SeƱorita.

Say da word, we'll make it happen. Would that I were wealthy and could offer you something really fucking spectacular, but a little heated house space is better than nothin'.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

Would that I were wealthy and could offer you something really fucking spectacular

W00t!!! I think the view of your neighbor's house might be about as much spectacular as I could handle. My ultimate dream would be to get paid big bux to blog about that place full time. It haunts my waking hours.

3:32 PM  
Blogger UrbanCowgirl said...

Hi Liz,
I've just survived winter in New Zealand, where they don't believe in heating. It didn't go below freezing except for a few nights, but these things made me much more comfortable:

- an electric blanket for the bed. There is honestly nothing better for ensuring a decent night's sleep in cold conditions. Get one with a thermostat if you can, so you can keep it on through the night on a low setting.

- an oil column heater - much safer and (I think) more effective if you are inside for a few hours at a time. Again, make sure you get one with a thermostat because your power bill will thank you. You can also attach a timer switch to them so if you know you're going to come home after a day out and don't want to freeze, set it to come on an hour in advance.

- A pair of sheepskin slippers.

Good luck!

3:51 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Made it through a few winters in Upstate NY with little or no heat. These are all good suggestions, but it may not be the most effecient thing to run heaters on a strict budget. We only used them when it got to around 20, and we never lost even a finger.

1. Electric blanket. Even set on low, use only when the temps are unbearable. They're not very cost effective if you walk around wrapped in one as a coat.

2. Hot showers. Run the water for a minute or two to warm up the bathroom. Get undressed and dressed in there. Washing the dishes helps, but don't get you're clothes wet, even your sleeves! I used to forget, wander on to something else, and then it was impossible to warm up.

3. Keep moving! Clean, exercise, sew with one of those peddle machines. If you stop, make sure you bundle up. Tuck around the toes, make yourself into a hot pocket--no filling should leak out.

4. Make friends with people who have heat. Suggest having a 'slumber party,' and offer your place. They'll most certainly want it at theirs. Win-win.

5. Lil' hand warmers. They'll get you through the cold nights tucked in the blanket around the feet. As mentioned earlier, hot water bottle--a must. They stay warm until morning if covered.

6. Lotion--chapping can get pretty bad. But not as bad as in some over-heated homes.

7. Grow that hair out! Natural scarf, right there. Short hair is for the summer.

Good luck--but you won't need it, because it won't be so bad with all the great tips these folks are leaving you...

8:07 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

Spent a winter without heat in the Pacific NW one year and we all lived to tell about it. Those little Vornadas are nice to get some quick warmth but for getting a whole room warm and keeping it that way the oil-filled and water-filled radiant space heaters are the safest and most efficient. Then, you need to get yourself a crockpot or something to cook gumbo in.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

Forgot about storm window kits. But maybe they don't sell those in LA? You use a double-sided adhesive tape around the window frame, stick on this heat-shrink plastic film, and blast it with a hair dryer until it forms a drum-tight thermal pane. Doesn't cut down the light, really helps fight heat loss.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Start reading all of the journals and diaries of the members of the Endurance, Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the southern reaches of the world. Most amazing story of survival ever and when you're reading about their experiences of living on the ice in skimpy tents for over a year, you will be able to say to yourself, "Well, at least this is better than that!"

7:54 AM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

I've always loved that Ernest Shackleton named his dog Lupoid.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I'm also a fan of oil-filled heaters - that's what I have on the unheated second floor of my house. And forget about electric blankets - what you want is an electric mattress pad. Heat rises, after all! For all but the nights that were way below 0 F, it was sufficient to only have it on for 30 minutes before bed.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Calliope said...

Land's End has the most amazing "Microfleece Heatwave Blanket" ...

I put $ in your paypal dealie last month on the 10th & was going to do the same thing this month upcoming, but I'm happy to send one of these your way if you'd rather. I LOVE this thing, but it is very hard to get out of bed in the morning. And the critters stay plastered on you all night.

Not sure how to accomplish sending it to you without splaying private emails and addresses over the Internet, but maybe there is a way?

8:07 PM  
Blogger sumo said...

A lot of people have already mentioned the electric blanket. In the co-op house that I lived in while at college we all slept on bunks in the unheated 3rd floor (attic) with the windows cracked. Everyone used an electric blanket and it works great (if you have another blanket or bedspread on top of it). The electric mattress pad sounds even better.

Have you heard about the grain-filled hot pads you heat in the microwave? Someone gave us one filled with rice and some kind of scented stuff. It worked really great. We loaned it to someone who decided to keep it. Needless to say, it worked pretty well. You can find sites explaining how to make them, but you just sew a small bag/pillow and fill it with rice, how hard is that? One suggestion is to make a cover for it (like a pillow case) because you can't wash the bag o' rice. Well, you can, but it makes for a less pleasant sleeping experience.

Night seems like when it would be the most uncomfortable, but if you have a good supply of blankets it is fine once you get the bed warmed up. Staying warm out of bed is the hard part. Stay active (I know, we don't have to tell you that!) I predict you're going spend a lot of time at the gym ;)

You know, I've never quite understood the wicking undergarments for winter clothes. I mean, I understand the concept of staying dry = staying warm, but... OK, let's say you are wearing a wicking shirt. The moisture gets sucked to the outer layer of the shirt. In the summer, it would then evaporate. In the winter, it now trapped under many other layers of clothes. It seems like the layer closest to you would stay dry, but the next layer would get soaked. Wouldn't it? Just wondering.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Jezebella said...

Again with the oil-filled radiator: me, too! I did some research and found it's the most energy-efficient space heater. I can turn my central heat off and heat my bedroom with it set on "2" , no matter how cold it gets here. Of course, I don't live on the tundra, but neither do you.
Here's a link to the kind of thing we're talking about:

http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=35277-33454-EW6507L&lpage=none

The space heaters that blow hot air over coils are far less energy efficient because they're constantly heating up that little coil. The oil in the radiator stores the heat, so it's still working even after you turn it off. You can't beat it, and it's less than $40, and it won't jack up your electric bill too much.

Body Shop sells those slippers with the microwaveable inserts. I gave some to my permanently-cold mom last christmas and she loooooves them.

Did anybody mention slippers? It's hand, feet, and head you want to focus on. TJ Maxx always has a good selection of slippers at way below retail.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Jezebella said...

Well, hell, my link didn't work. Just go to lowes.com and do a search for a radiator.

2:23 PM  
Blogger conspicuous said...

A few weeks ago, when I first read about your house having no heat, I offered you several blankets. That offer still stands. I would love to know that you and the "kiddos" are as warm as you can possibly be even if it heat that is generated by blankets and space heaters.
The offer stand. You can contact me at samtoshaa @ gmail . com. Peace, heat and healing!
Sam

7:17 PM  
Blogger Katherine said...

Other than the fireplace, for which we split other people's abandoned logs from summer yard-improvement adventures, we got by with multiple blankets, hot water bottles and hot bricks, cats, and space heaters. If you have a space heater that gets hot on top, you can put a pot of soup up there and it makes the room smell nice, plus you have hot soup.

Staple-gun plastic sheets over the windows on the outside and/or use those 3M shrink wrap window covers. They also make gaskets for behind switchplates on exterior walls. If you can limit yourself to one room and put up thick blankets or drapes on the doors to block airflow, you just have to heat that room, which is cheaper.

I'd recommend arranging everything around your bed so you can just stay in a warm nest all winter, actually. Can't give you any hints about light-- I seem to be totally backwards in that morning light and bright light makes me depressed. You can probably fake a dawn with lamps with timers.

2:37 AM  
Blogger Belle Plain said...

My husband and I survived one super-cold and very long Chicago winter in an apartment so drafty that everything near the windows froze - including the shampoo. Now THAT'S cruel, when even the shower is icy purgatory.

We did the plastic on the windows, but found out very quickly that even that did very little. We did have heat, but since the place was SO drafty (you could stand in front of the east-facing windows and feel wind come through when they were shut!) turning it on was pointless. The place would be warm for about one minute after the heat shut off. So it got down to -35 outside, and stayed around 45 inside.

How we survived:

-Electric blanket. I was always opposed to these, but it saved us. We ended up spending the whole winter either in bed or in the small office with space heater blasting. Eating, reading, doing homework, everything.

-Pans of water. This may not be an issue in Louisiana, but Chicago winters are made extra miserable because they are so dry. We placed pans and bowls of water randomly throughout, and it did help.

-Layers, as everyone has said. Lots of them. Those Wintersilks are the awesomest, but they are also expensive - I just stocked up on the cheapy waffle-knit kind at Target, since I was just putting them under my sweats at home anyway.

-And definitely, hot water bottles! They are the cheapest warm-up trick in the book. I used to tote mine around all over the house. Reading on the couch, sitting at the computer, in bed, whatever. Warm. Mmm.

Does Soop have PJs? I have a skinny near-hairless dog too, and the PJs are a necessity on those long cold nights. I got my boy's from www.nonudehounds.com who I think has the best range of cute/humiliating patterns :)

8:47 AM  
Blogger Belle Plain said...

Duh, in that mega-comment I forgot the most important thing: baseboards! Shortly before we moved out of the Apartment of the Eternal Chill, we discovered that the wind was whistling up from where the baseboards met the floor. Duct tape was applied, and voila - the place was instantly warmer. It's worth a try!

8:49 AM  
Blogger KMTBERRY said...

I am just repeating the chorus, but here in Austin Texas, it is quite normal for older houses to have no heat. (or fireplaces).

I think ORIGINALLY these houses and shacks in which I have spent my life had WOODSTOVES. My house I currently enjoy has clearly patched woodstove holes in the ceiling and roof. I IMAGINE that your shack once had a woodstove too. Probably the cookstove. A woodstove would EASILY make that little place cosy and hot; that's why these places are so poorly insulated: they got TOO HOT!

Just think, the poor sharecroppers who USED to live there in the 1900's were more comfortable than you are today!

ANYWAY

NOWADAYS we use those oil/electric heaters and they work like a charm, are safe with pets even when you are out for the day (you can leave the damn things on non-stop all winter) and high ceilings are not a problem. My house is insulated literally like a SIEVE (termites) (also, shot windows) and they do the job nicely for almost no money.

If you were going to STAY there, I would say got a woodstove used (I got one at a garage sale for $40, but DH was scared to actually install it so we gave it away). But I get the feeling that you are going to do a lot of travelling and visiting about for the next few years, so might not be worth the trouble.

so: OIL HEATERS! Look like accordions. You will be snug!!

4:52 PM  
Blogger Vornado said...

Love that pic! If you are on Flickr, please consider adding it to our Vornado Fan Club group! Love your blog, by the way. Keep up the great work.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Vornado said...

I meant to mention that I truly admire your strength and transparency.

6:06 PM  

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